Clegg: Ministers fuelling hatred

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has used a speech to the Demos thinktank to launch a devastating broadside against the government.

Mr Clegg said government ministers have been playing to “simmering tensions” in society to fuel rage and hatred.

As the economic downturn went on, Mr Clegg said, “an alienated and frustrated minority will turn to aggression, to hate and to blame.

“Hardship creates anxiety, scarcity creates suspicion – yet we have seen the justice minister denounce human rights, the immigration minister blame misery on asylum seekers,” he continued.

“This isn’t leadership; this is pandering to fear. The only way we will make it through the hard times ahead, the only way we’ll build a fairer more cohesive society is if we come together – not if we drive people apart.”

In a speech entitled ‘Why I Am A Liberal’, the former journalist and European commissioner also sounded a warning on knee-jerk reactions to child abuse cases.

Referring to the case of Karen Matthews, who was recently found guilty of kidnapping her own daughter, Mr Clegg said: “Evil may be the right word to describe what some individuals have done to others, especially their own children.

“But our outrage as a people, our fury, our determination to stamp out these crimes wherever we can, shows that, as a society, we are moral, we are decent.

“It is disaster politics to assume otherwise.”

He added: “We know that it was the disaster politics response to the killing of Jamie Bulger that led to a massive upswing in the number of children in prison or prison-like secure accommodation.

“And we know it isn’t doing any good. It isn’t cutting crime. It’s just turning fragile children into damaged adults – turning out a generation of career criminals.”

The speech marks the continuation of a line of argument employed by Mr Clegg at a variety of speaking arrangements over the last few weeks, most notably his speech to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal declaration of Human Rights.

In them, Mr Clegg has been taking unpopular subjects and launching into passionate defences of his values, such as the ‘victimisation’ of asylum seekers.